Football

USA Football expands plans for regional and national 7on7 events

Jul 15, 2016; Hoover, AL, USA; Players from South Forsyth warm up before their game during the USA Football 7on7 National Championship at Hoover high school. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-135185 [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Players from South Forsyth warm up before their game during the USA Football 7on7 National Championship in Hoover last summer (Photo: Butch Dill, USA TODAY Sports)

After a successful first year, USA Football has expanded its presence in 7on7 with additional regional events for high school teams and the formation of a National Championship Series.

USA Football will have 14 regional events beginning on June 9 in San Francisco after 10 last year. The four National Championship Series events will be in July in Sacramento; Dallas; Canton, Ohio; and Hoover, Ala. A year ago, one national championship event was held in Hoover as the continuation of the National Select 7on7 event that has been held there since 2002.

“We have had such positive results and feedback from high school coaches about our entry into  the 7on7 world and supporting high school coaches,” said Brandon Sheppard, USA Football’s director of 7on7.  “As the national governing body for football and the recognized organization and all we do across the country, it made sense to expand to other geographical location where we haven’t had events in the past. We will have the same type of support and same type of event for teams in other areas than we have had traditionally in the Southeast in Hoover.”

RELATED: Schedule of events

With so many 7on7 events involving all-star teams, there’s a concern those events focus on individuals and take away from the team concept, much like summer AAU basketball has done to high school basketball.

Sheppard said that is a differentiating factor between the USA Football events and others.

“This sits at the heart of what we’re doing for the high school coach — 7on7 provides high school teams and coaches an opportunity to develop during the summer,” he said. “We want to support the high school coach as the most important person in the game and as someone who is very influential in their communities. When all other sports are being marginalized by third parties, club coaches or AAU coaches, we really want to help the high school coach.”

The plan calls for 32 teams to be in each of the regional events – many of which are being run in partnership with local NFL teams. USA Football is aiming for 32 teams in each of the national events, except Hoover, which is projected at 48 teams. Registration has begun at USAFootball.com/7on7 and will be open until all the slots are filled.

Teams do not have to compete in the regional events to be invited to the national series, although regional winners and top performing teams will be given the opportunity to participate.

“We try not to exclude anyone,” he said. “These are competitive events and sometimes you have to let the competition make the decision.”

Invitations also are based on what Sheppard called “internal criteria that lend itself to putting on a national championship caliber event.”